Lin, a former Harvard star who went undrafted out of college, gives up 14 inches and roughly a hundred pounds to Yao, the former No. 1 draft pick and recently retired center of the NBA’s Houston Rockets. He’s also an American by birth, the California-raised son of Taiwanese immigrants.
But none of that appeared to matter to China’s basketball fans after the second-year player exploded for a career-high 25 points in leading the New York Knicks to a victory over the New Jersey Nets on Saturday then went on to top that effort with 28 points in a win over the Utah Jazz on Monday.
Video clips of Lin’s performances have circulated widely on China’s popular Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo, where the 23-year-old’s Chinese name, Lin Shuhao, ranked among the top 10 most searched terms Monday.
Images of the 6-foot-3-inch guard outperforming NBA veterans, including All-Star point guard Deron Williams, have garnered him global acclaim, including on Twitter, where the hashtag #linsanity has been trending. But he seems to made a particularly big splash with Chinese viewers, some of whom had begun to lose interest in the NBA following Yao’s retirement in July last year.
ESPN spoke with Lin following his latest scoring outburst, a contribution which gave the New York Knicks a two-game “Lin-ning Streak”:
Because, as improbable as it sounds, Jeremy Lin’s fingerprints were all over both victories.
That’s the same Jeremy Lin who was cut by two teams in the preseason.
It’s the same Jeremy Lin who played a grand total of 16 minutes in his first two weeks with the Knicks.
And it’s the same Jeremy Lin who spent six days in the D-League two weeks ago.
“I definitely couldn’t have imagined this,” Lin said after scoring a career-high 28 points and handing out eight assists in his first NBA start, a 99-88 win over the Jazz.